“It’s a fine life”

***Advanced warning: Extremely proud mummy WASO post***

‘Moments to be cherished’ is this weeks’ Adoption Social #WASO theme and has been chosen by their guest editor @Craftikitty and the theme couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

As some of you, who have been following my recent posts or through Twitter, you will have found it hard not to notice that Buzzbee has been slowly building up to taking on a named role in ‘Oliver’ (I can hear some of you now “Are you insane? How do you expect him to cope with the story line?”

I will confess when he first said that he wanted to audition as an orphan/urchin for the show. I had nearly had kittens and every thought ran through my head as to the impact it may have on him, with this said, he was determined to audition and join his dad this year on stage.

Despite our “anxious” parental instincts screaming at us “this could go very badly wrong”, Bumble and I knew that it would probably cause even more damage to Buzz’s self-esteem if we talked him out of it, and besides, the Buzzbee that was stood in front of us asking to join in, is not the Buzzbee we are used to seeing, and that alone is a moment I will cherish.

Until part of the way into last year, Buzzbee’s self-esteem, self-confidence and self-belief was through the floor. This fire in him was dying out and he was retreating into himself socially and emotionally. He then joined a local youth musical theatre group and I suppose you could the rest is history.

 

I don’t fully understand what it is that is different, when it comes to the group. Although I know that the wonderful ladies who run the group are absolutely amazing with him and his social interaction experience with the children (mostly girls which Buzz always sees as a bonus) is the polar opposite of his experiences while at school. I guess there is a close and almost nurturing atmosphere and everyone attending has their own personal strengths and weaknesses, and each child (and adult) accepts them for who they are. They are not expecting Buzz to conform to their stereotype of how he should be.hat1

Quite honestly, when he first started and for many months (including during the time he was involved with the concerts), Buzz didn’t actively attempt to interact with his peers unless it was what he was supposed to be doing while rehearsing – break times he was kind of hang back from the others.

Okay back to this week. Wednesday evening: “Mummy I did it! I got on the stage and I sang and I danced and I didn’t forget my lines and the audience loved it. I can’t wait to do the other 2 shows this week” – As you may have guessed. Buzzbee was pleased with himself. Oops sorry I should have mentioned. Buzz started of rehearsals for the show content in the knowledge that he was to play a workhouse orphan and one of Fagin’s street urchins, but as rehearsals progressed he was offered the role of ‘Charley Bates’ (the artful dodger’s best friend) which meant he would have to step that little further out of his comfort zone but he did it.

I don’t want to say too much because this week Buzz has written a ‘Moments to cherish’ #WASO post himself (linked here) but it goes without saying that Bumble and I couldn’t have been prouder of him and not just because of the wonderful job he did over the past 3 performances but probably more importantly, for his bravery – getting up on stage in front of nearly 200 people each show and performing his heart out even though backstage he was visibly anxious. He wore unfamiliar clothing and a microphone and managed (just about) to tolerate them. Even when a prop mistake occurred during one of his scenes, instead of letting it throw him, he didn’t bat an eyelid and just took it in his stride, carrying on as if there was nothing wrong.

I better stop before I get carried away any more than I already have done.

But this post is not just about Buzzbee. Waxy has also this week given his little brother (and ourselves) a truly special moment to cherish, and it is something that many of our non-adoptive/fostering friends and family probably take for granted and certainly there have been some who do not understand why we are making such a big fuss about it.

This week has been a very busy week with Birthday celebrations also happening, however on Wednesday, Waxy did something I have NEVER known him to do. He went out of his way to make sure that Buzzbee received a “Break a leg” message from him before he left for the show and the members of staff at his school assure me that they had played no part in facilitating his apparent spontaneity. It was in their words “It was his own idea. All we did was make sure he could get hold of Buzz in time”.

I can’t describe the joy on Buzz’s face while he was speaking to his brother and okay yes, tears were glistening in my eyes (and here I go again). To others this was ‘nothing’. It was small and insignificant and well, in their minds they would have expected him to have done anything different but Bumble and I know how ‘momentous’ this was for Waxy. He WANTED to reach out to his brother and wish him luck, he wasn’t make to do it because it was the right thing to do.

So this week I can safely say there have been so many ‘moments to cherish’ I have lost count but that doesn’t matter because they are all locked up safely in my mind and will be warming my heart for a long time to come.

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Every family tree contains some nuts

“How big is grandad’s family mummy?”

“Honestly Buzz. I really don’t know anymore”

“Why? Is it because you live too far away and have forgotten them, like my t**t birth parents have forgotten me?”

“Oh Buzz, how can anyone ever forget you? No I can’t tell you how big grandad’s family is because I have simply lost track of how many there are now. Grandad has 12 brothers and sisters, most of them are married and All of them have at least 2 children, but most have 4 or 5 and that is not counting their step children. All of my aunts and uncles are at least grandparents, but in truth by Grandad’s 60th birthday he was already a Great, Great, Great, Great Uncle and has more great, great nieces and nephews than he can even remember.   Grandad’s family is so big at family parties it is the standard joke that we should all be wearing conference name tags or t-shirts stating which of Grandad’s siblings we are closest related too”.

“Why didn’t Grandad’s mummy and daddy use protection so they didn’t have so many babies?”

“Buzz, that is a whole other discussion and one that will have to wait a little longer” (A lot longer – religious beliefs, merchant navy and extended absence for my grandfather. Not to mention booze and well…. Let’s just say there are things that are definitely never for either of my boys’ ears).

Anyway, I am rambling a little (okay a lot) but there is a reason I chose to start this week’s #WASO post with a brief sample of a recent conversation with Buzzbee and I think triggered by my sister once again, opening her mouth and making inappropriate and insensitive comments with the boys in earshot and refusing to acknowledge how these may make the boys feel or impact on their relationship with her (not that Bumble and I have ever seen any real sign of her really accept them as her nephews. Yes, she buys them birthday and Christmas presents, but there is never any thought put into it).

I swear she is jealous of the boys, despite having 3 biological children of her own and giving my parents their only granddaughter. There are so many reasons that my sister hasn’t really ever fully accepted the boys and most of them the boys are aware of and find it quite funny at times, especially when the eldest of my nephew will repeat a comment that he has obviously heard from my sister to Waxy and Waxy then uses it as a way to manipulate and wind his YOUNGER cousin up (Waxy is now my parents’ eldest grandchild not my nephew and NOW Waxy loves pointing this fact out with my sister in earshot, if she is being particularly frosty).

So what had my sister said that had had such an impact on Buzzbee? It wasn’t anything Bumble, my parents, or I hadn’t heard before, but up until now she had been more careful about when she voiced her opinions on the boys’ birth family, but on this day she was careless (or maybe I am the one who failed to protect my boys). Somehow the subject of wills and families had come up and my parents were ‘reassuring’ her that they had listed some item or other in their will that was always promised to my niece. My parents reminded her that they would make sure ALL of their grandchildren were bequeathed something in their wills.

flaming“Well Waxy and Buzz won’t be expecting anything from you because they have their own family, which they will obviously inherit from when the time comes because they are their blood and the boys will have a right to any inheritance from their birth family, the same as my 3 are your blood and will inherit from you both”

How does that old saying go? “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”? Now the boys beg to differ on this phrase owing to our family set up, but when it comes to my sister, no matter how much I hate how she treats people and I am on the verge of being unable to find a reason to keep her in my boys’ lives. The fact remains that she IS my sister and she IS part of the boys extended family whether we want her to be or not.

Please forgive me I completely went off on a tangent from my original motivation for this ‘Extended Families’ post.

When Bumble and I started on our adoption journey we always knew that the children we welcomed into our hearts and into our family, would always have had another family before.   We had a vision of how this would work and how we might support our child (children in this case) to maintain some kind of link with their birth family. Okay, we both imagined this would probably be once a year, on the same date and via a third party service (post adoption letterbox service). I can only speak for myself and say that it was never my imagination that very swiftly after the boys were placed with us, those lines of contact and communication with one particular set of birth family members would go from being a formal bi-annual family newsletter and their response, to a more direct and open relationship, which feels surprisingly natural and not just for Bumble and I. My parents have never met these people and yet they will happily chat with the boys about them and not feel even threatened by the fact the boys are open about their affection for these 2 wonderful people.

My sister is right about one thing. The boys do have another family and while most of them have completely disappeared off the radar, the ones that have stuck around I am confident that, no matter what, they will always be around and always put the boys needs above their and this is rapidly beginning to be reflected in the rapid growth in frequency of informal emails and postcard being shared in both directions. There are not just part of Beeswax and Buzzbee’s birth family. They have become part of our ever growing extended family and long may it stay this way.

Nearly there now. If you are still with me, then congratulations for surviving. While I have accepted there is very little chance my sister will ever change, she is in a minority as far as the rest of my colossal family are concerned. From the very beginning the boys were welcomed into the family as if they had always been there and while yes they have been known to say “all kids do that”, in my dad’s family they are more likely to say “oh uncle sting used to do that when he was angry, he calmed down in the end”. Like my dad, nothing really phases them, and it is probably because the members of my dad’s family consist of almost every colour of the rainbow, personality, socially, culturally, academically, behaviourally – you name it someone in my dad’s family has probably done it or been involved/experienced it at some point in their lives.

familytree

Return of the ‘Oops box’

This is getting to become a bit of a bad habit for me, but I have yet again found myself in the position of putting a planned #WASO post on the backburner in favour of a post that has dominated my mind and…… well, quite frankly most of the last week.

2 years ago I wrote a post about managing Waxy’s ‘squirrelling’ and ‘itchy fingers’ and the positive impact our ‘Oops Box’ had in reducing his shame level.

In the past 2 years, we have needed to use the box less and less.

We have in fact for sometime not felt the need to bring the box out at all …… well, not until a couple of weeks ago anyway.

Bumble and I (as well as my parents) had begun to notice that minor items were disappearing and so were small amounts of coins. The insignificance of some of the items at first had Bumble and I convinced that we had simply misplaced or lost them ourselves, but when my parents cautiously approached the topic of container filed loose change they found concealed behind Waxy’s bed while my dad was measuring it before he began planning how to convert it into a more teenager friendly and functional bed for Waxy.

Waxy does not have loose change. He has a ‘go henry’ card.  We agreed with him some time ago that the card would be a safer option than change, as there had been accusations in the past from peers and he had no proof as to how he had obtained the money in his possession.

My parents’ discomfort wasn’t because of the money they had found (they are used to the ‘squirrel’ moment too).Their discomfort was because they knew that had to confess to have had their suspicions that he was up to his old tricks after our stay over the Christmas holidays, but they had wanted to believe that it was their carelessness, rather than imagine that their grandson would ‘steal’ from them!

I have to confess, I was mortified but we agreed to bide our time and resurrect the ‘oops box’ in the hope that it would give him an opportunity to ‘make it right’ without him being overwhelmed with shame.  We also spoke to school and explain how we planned to manage it, only to be informed that they have also had their suspicions but had been taking a more direct approach with him – Great now I know why he is so confrontational at home at the moment! So helpful!

However, our plans have not exactly gone to plan and have come to a head before we could “bring out the box” – Waxy was caught red-handed trying to sneak money he had “found” in Bumble’s car up to his bedroom secreted in the washing basket.

DSCN0106Unfortunately for him, he was using a washing basket with holes in and the sound of several heavy coins crashing onto the laminate floor, was not a sound he could muffle easily.

 

Waxy’s heckles shot up before either Bumble and I could respond. Waxy was arming himself for a fight. He was convinced he was going to be for the high jump and while Bumble and I had no intention at that point of talking to him about it, other than to ask him to pass us the money that had fallen on the floor. I know I failed miserably at not looking disappointed that he had chosen to steal from his dad, and that alone was enough to kick off his shame response.

We have since discussed the return of these ‘impulses’ with him and the consequences this will have for the immediate future (not putting temptation in his way, closer supervision and of course the return of the ‘Oops box’).

I have to believe that we have caught him early this time and that with the knowledge of this issue is out there now and hasn’t changed how much we love him, will mean that this will be just another blip on the bumpy trauma path through adolescence.

 

 

Taking the square peg out of the round hole.

I am not known for openly expressing my opinions on Political, Religious or Social discussion/debates. Most family and friends assume this is because I not really interested in current affairs and have nothing I want to contribute to their conversations.

I can without a shadow of a doubt tell you that, I most definitely have an opinion on nearly every ‘soapbox’ conversation I have had the misfortune of having to sit/stand around and listen too – Bumble’s brothers spring immediately to my mind. I love them dearly but OMG they are so vocal about everything and quite frankly on the rare occasion I have tried to join in, they have been completely arrogant and dismissive (just because you are highly educated does not give you the right to talk over someone else and treat them like a lesser person).

This is one reason why I keep my opinions to myself, I don’t need any more ways to have my confidence knocked. However, the main reason I rarely wade into discussions is because, once I have the bit between my teeth, I can become VERY passionate about the topic, and I end up feeling like I have embarrassed myself, or offended someone.

Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering?

Quite simply, over the past couple of weeks I have been slowly bubbling away, listening to the latest home education debate, and being directly and indirectly subjected to the utterly ridiculous outpourings from ignorant people who have no idea what they are talking about, on a topic that they have no real understanding of. In the last 2 days I have gone past silently simmering and have now reached boiling point.

Before Christmas, it was announced (sensationalised) in the media that Nicky Morgan, The Education Secretary, had asked officials to review home schooling amid fears that thousands of children may be having their minds “filled with poison” by radicalised parents, and from my own perspective, it has opened the flood gates to every Tom, Dick & Harry believing they have the right to express their opinion openly about the damaging effect ‘home schooling’ must have on children, and passing judgements on parents who choose this educational route for their child.

At the beginning of our adoption journey with Waxy and Buzzbee, home education was never considered as an option that we would want for our children or ourselves. Both of us were of the opinion that the boys would benefit from the security and structure that a school could provide, and, as the primary carer of two extremely traumatized young boys, in all honesty I felt that the time that the boys would be in school would be my opportunity to relax and regroup, if we had had a particularly difficult evening or morning, and by the time the boys returned from school, I would be able to once again dig down deep into my therapeutic mummy chest, and support and care for my boys as they deserved.

The reality however has been a completely different story. My free time was (and still is to be honest) racing back and forth from schools, for meetings or to fire fight the latest meltdown or drama that had unfolded. When Waxy moved to his specialist school, Bumble and I thought the frequency of my involvement would decrease, but it hasn’t, but I will save that for next week’s WASO post. Buzzbee’s school experience was a whole other experience and an unpleasant experience at that.

WE DID NOT CHOOSE HOME EDCATION for Buzzbee. We were left with NO CHOICE but to deregister Buzzbee, as his school was failing him and his mental health was being dramatically affected by it.

Just in the last few weeks, I have heard comments both directly and indirectly, like:-

  • “How can he be learning anything? You don’t have a teaching qualification. I know how to brush my teeth, but that doesn’t mean I go around telling people that I can do a deep clean treatment or a tooth extraction.”
  • “I bet all he does is sit watching TV and playing on the computer all day and doing nothing.”
  • “Oh, he’s home educated. That must be so lonely for him. How is he supposed to make friends, if he doesn’t go to school?”
  • “If you teach him, how do you prove he is actually learning anything, if he doesn’t have a professional checking his work?”
  • “Oh, you are one of those hemp wearing, earth mothers are you, who are anti-establishment and believe the world is all the classroom your child needs.”
  • “He has special needs and should be in a school where they know what they are doing and he can learn to get on with others and follow the rules of life.”

I have a million and more comments like this, but the pièce de résistance has to be a comment that an adopter had put on Facebook, that had incensed her when she heard it on a radio phone in debate about home education matters.

  • A male caller had phoned in and told the presenter that he believed home education was fundamentally wrong, because children won’t grow up being able to meet the expectations of society, if they’re not exposed to a one size fits all system. (Arrrrrrrrrrggghhhh)
if you train a fish

Image credited to Pinterest

I believe everyone has the right to voice their own opinions, but that does not mean that individual numpties have the right to force their uninvited opinions on others and insist that their opinion is the one everybody should accept.

It may surprise some to know that I can see pros and cons for both sides of the argument, I cannot and will not be the mouth piece for other parents, I can only speak for myself and our experience of home education for Buzzbee.

I have already said Buzzbee originally attended a mainstream primary school and tried his hardest to fit in with norms and expectations of the school community. He couldn’t meet their expectations and school wouldn’t/couldn’t meet ours. They broke him, and I will never forgive myself for leaving him in that situation for as long as we did.

They turned our happy, confident and inquisitive young boy into a child who no longer believed he was good enough or worthy enough to be around. His love for life and curiosity for the world around had disappeared along with his self-esteem. He had spent so much time isolated from his peers and falling apart at the smallest glimmer of expectations being put on him. From Bumble and my perspectives (and most probably Buzzbee’s), we were seeing school staff give up on him and just going through the motions each day and Buzzbee rapidly giving up on himself too.

While professionals and myself were just going around in circles having meetings after meetings, discussing the same issues, but never reaching a conclusion, Buzzbee’s social, emotional, academic wellbeing was disintegrating in front of our eyes. Buzzbee’s academics had not progressed in almost 2 years.

Bumble and I felt we were left with no choice but to remove him from school for a period of time while a suitable school could be identified.

Buzzbee was developing a phobia not only towards learning, but also to socializing and being in public settings in our local community. For me my priority was not to get him caught back up with his peers academically. Before I could help him “catch up” I needed to help him believe in himself again.

From the very beginning I was open to working closely with outside agencies as well as the local Home Education welfare officer to regularly review Buzz’s progress, and I welcomed their input – which usually involved them telling me that they were impressed with how much Buzzbee had actually achieved, despite lacking the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I was not passing off work I had done as his. Very quickly I identified Buzzbee’s learning style and focused my attention on creating opportunities for learning and succeeding using this knowledge.

For more than a year I directed my attentions to working only on topics and areas that I knew he could cope with, and for the first few months that meant going really back to basics. As Buzzbee’s self-esteem and confidence in his own abilities grew, and he was learning to trust that it was okay to make mistakes and that I wouldn’t think less of him for it, I gradually began sneaking in skills that would push him a little more out of his comfort zone. Sometimes this worked and sometimes……well, let me just say I am grateful for hot chocolate, and Steve Backshall.

Flexibility is at the heart of Buzzbee’s learning style needs, and without the freedom that home education offers, Buzzbee wouldn’t be where he is now, emotionally or socially, and he wouldn’t have the courage to try things that do not come naturally to him.

When Buzzbee was removed from school, he wouldn’t/couldn’t show adults what he could do, or have the courage to tell staff when he didn’t understand what he needed to do. He couldn’t spell his own name. He would crumble into a thousand pieces at the slightest suggestion of reading even a single word. He was unable to tolerate sitting in assemblies or class performances. His academic levels were no higher than a 1c, despite being in year 3. And he believed he was the most dangerous little boy on the planet.

2 years on, and while there are glaringly obvious difficulties in his abilities to learn the basics (something we had ourselves questioned while he was still in school), we have found solutions to work with or around this. Buzzbee can now ask for help if he doesn’t know how to do something, or is unsure of the words he is trying to read. Mistakes while doing project/school work no longer result in the whole piece of work being turned into confetti, and he can, most days, walk away when he is getting frustrated instead. He has begun to trust his dad and other adults enough to show them what he can do or has learnt (I love seeing his face light up when they congratulate him on his effort). He enjoys celebrating the efforts of his project work and insists on displaying it throughout our lounge. I could list so many more examples of how he is slowly getting there academically, but for myself (and Bumble) the biggest and most important example that I can give you for how Home Education has been the saviour of Buzzbee, has to be that it has given him the space he needed to recover and rebuild his emotional health and reconnect with, not only his peers in our community, but also engage in social and extracurricular activities that involve him needing to, not only learn social etiquette, but also ‘putting himself out there’ and joining in with activities that 2 years before would have been too much for him to cope with.

If you were to have asked me 2 years ago, if I could ever imagine that Buzzbee would not only attend dance lessons or join a theatre group. I would have said “It’ll never happen, and that breaks my heart because I know how much he loves to sing and dance”.

Well, we are 2 years along and not only is Buzz doing both of these, but he is actively involved with them and will confidently show them what he can do, the same goes for the forest school that he attends once a week. When they first met him he was in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’, but with their support and commitment, he has grown in himself and they report that he is a completely different child. He is happy and in my eyes that means he is successful, and I cannot tell you how much that fills me with pride.

Home Education is not the right fit for everyone, but for now it is the perfect fit for Buzzbee, and if you still are in any doubt about the benefits it has had for Buzzbee. Maybe this picture will make you think twice.

Every night I write a silly message on his blackboard. This evening Buzz proudly called me to his bedroom to show me what he had done without any input from anyone else – This is a first for him but I am hoping it won’t be his last.

thats me

 

 

This entry was posted on January 24, 2016. 9 Comments

“Goodnight! Sleep tight”

For as long as I have known Buzz, he has always gone through a short period of time, each year, where has struggled to settle to bed at night. Bumble and I have always felt that this was linked to seasonal light changes – nights getting darker quicker.

In fact, although it took us a couple of years for the penny to drop, Buzzbee has ALWAYS struggled with the transition of light to dark. We have had many tricky car journeys where he has transformed from a calm and relaxed passenger into………. A helium filled Tasmanian Devil!

But I digress. Over the years we have tried everything we can think of to ‘reset’ Buzz’s bedtime habits and get him back into his bedtime routine. Usually we would be talking 3 or 4 weeks of exhausting and loooooong evenings sat at the top of the stairs, returning him to his room and trying to prevent the boys having the opportunity to communicate (I won’t even go into the lengths Waxy used to go to to ensure Buzz was high as a kite so that he didn’t have to get ready for bed).   Bumble and I found these ‘Phases’ stressful and they left us feeling confused and lost for ideas (traditional and unconventional).

While the Bumble and I often despaired about the longevity of Buzz’s seasonal bedtime Olympics, we clung to the knowledge that bedtime WILL return to normal eventually and we would be able to once again have ‘adult time’ evenings.

I suppose you could say, every year we experienced our own bedtime routine ‘groundhog day’.

Over the past 8 months everyday has been “groundhog day” with Buzz and his bedtime struggles. Currently Bumble and I count it as a ‘win’ at bedtime if we manage to settle Buzz to sleep by 10pm.

Buzz fights sleep and he will go to great lengths to drag us into a battle of wills, irrespective of the fact that he will openly tell us he is “knackered”. He was embarking on a path of self-destruction and always felt bad about himself the next morning, but appeared to not be able to help himself each night and the cycle of chaos would begin again.

In the past couple of months, we have found a couple of tricks that help him finally drop off, but they have only been successful if we have first endured his marathon sleep avoidance mania – Bumble and I were confused as to why he still needed to go completely ‘bonkers’ before he would allow us to ‘sausage roll’ (swaddle snuggly) him in his quilt and blanket and if necessary use deep pressure back rubbing until Buzz begins to gently ‘coo’, which is his cue that he has begun to self-sooth.

I don’t know why it had never dawned on us before, but being swaddled makes Buzz feel safe and secure.

So, why couldn’t he allow us to do this from the very beginning of his bedtime routine?

Buzz has always had a fascination for building dens or creating hideaways and occasionally went through spells of sleeping in his pop-up play tent or under a pretty fantastic, blanket construction. But each were always short-lived. However looking back over the last couple of years, the signs have been there all the time.dogbed

  • Buzz sleeps with hundreds of soft toys on his bed and my parents used to joke about the fact there were so many teddies that it was hard to imagine how Buzz could even manage to get into bed let alone sleep in it.
  • Buzz ALWAYS insists on his bed having at least 2 sides against a wall and ALWAYS he has to have his head facing the door.
  • Buzz ALWAYS went to sleep quicker in our bedroom – we have a 4 poster bed with drapes. Although there are other reasons too.

Finally:-

  • When we go camping and he has to sleep in a tent pod and when we sleep at my parent’s caravan, he falls asleep with very little fuss – both pretty compact and contained.

However, while staying at my parent’s house this Christmas, our suspicions were confirmed by Buzzbee while we all ate our Christmas lunch, but we didn’t fully understand the depth of his anxiety until an overnight stay in a premier lodge while visiting Bumble’s family – I could quite easily write an entire post just about this one night, and maybe I will later in the week.

The boys have slept at my parents on numerous occasions and while Buzz has been a little more challenging to settle and is quite vocal in his sleep, not to mention being unbelievably restless all night, he has eventually fallen asleep.

However, this year Buzz took the sleeping arrangements into his own hands and chose to create his own space in the bedroom with the help of the puppies’ playpen* and a large red blanket.bedtime1

* Before I go any further. I feel the need to let readers know that it was Buzzbee’s idea and choice to sleep surrounded by the puppy play pen, and he had full control over whether he stayed inside it or removed it. Our only rule was that he was not allowed to lock himself in the pen.

Settling any child on Christmas eve can be a challenge for any parent, let alone a parent who is trying to settle a child who is experiencing sleep difficulties.   With the support from my parents we kept to the boys’ routine and settled the boys into their beds, fully prepared for Buzzbee’s bedtime games, but after 30 minutes of listening out for sound or signs of movement. We cautiously popped our head around the bedroom door, expecting to hear a little voice excitedly begin chattering to us. Instead, all we could hear was gentle breathing and cooing. BUZZBEE WAS ASLEEP!!!!! And, not only did he fall asleep rapidly and without fussing, but he was sound asleep and relaxed – Buzzbee has always slept with his fists tightly clenched and tightly scrunched up in a ball. The young man snoozing in front of us, was snoozing peacefully with his whole body open wide (my dad joked that he looked like he was ready for a pinup photoshoot).

Buzzbee slept ALL night and there was not a peek from him, something we are not used too because he has always shouted and sworn loudly throughout the night for as long as I can remember, and as I said earlier, he is always thrashing around. In fact, we had 3 blissful, undisturbed night’s sleep

Okay, confession time! Buzzbee’s bed is in our bedroom at my parents and I am an incredibly light sleeper, but I have got used to his mumblings and my sleep being disrupted. So when I couldn’t hear him in the night, I jumped out of bed, panicking something was wrong and wanted to poke him to check he was still alive – My parents found this highly amusing.

Over Christmas lunch, one of my parents (can’t remember which) joked about Buzzbee’s sleeping arrangements and asked out of curiosity why he liked sleeping in the puppy pen.

“I feel safe when I am in it. Nothing and nobody can get at me, that’s why.”

He felt safe. How did I not think of it before?

Fast forward a couple of weeks and several attempts at different ideas for creating a ‘safe sleeping environment’, some of which were almost suitable and certainly helped reduce his bedtime anxiety. However, each of the ideas had one fault- they were not particularly transferable and really we needed something that would be safe and that we could take with us when visiting family or going on holiday.

After several hours of research and long discussions about what we felt we needed from a portable sleep tent, we discovered the ‘Privacy Pop’ which ticked every box not only for Bumble and I, but for Buzzbee too.

And, boy does he love it!popup

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Windmills and whirligigs

mind windmill

Many adopters, Foster carers or quite frankly any parent who are parenting children with additional needs will have probably at one time or another felt overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of supporting our children and dealing with school staff, some of whom try their best to understand and work with you, or in the other hand completely fight you on everything and treat you like you are being a completely over-protective and controlling parent.

Where am I going with this? Why have I suddenly decided to turn on my laptop and start ranting (my apologies) about schools?

In truth this post isn’t really about schools.

It is about the frustrating and emotional rollercoaster, I find myself riding every Sunday night, Monday morning and of course Friday afternoons.

It is the electronic tears of a worn out, emotionally/physically broken mother, who is rapidly running out of steam and ideas on how to support her sons therapeutically while keeping a firm grip on her own sanity and identity.

But most importantly. It is about the trauma of transitions for my boys and how they manage their anxiety levels around it – or not as the case mostly seems.

Anyone who has been following my posts for a while will know that I regularly talk about the boys’ trauma bond and the devastating effect it has on the household and their relationship with each other, but something I haven’t talked about very much is the weekly ‘transition tornado’ that comes tearing though the family and uproots everyone from their stable grounding each weekend and each start of a school holiday.

There is a very good reason I haven’t talked openly about it and it is not for the reasons many would possible believe.   Some may read this and think that I haven’t written about it because I am worried about how people may interpret what I describe as evidence that, as the boys’ mum, I have lost control and am lacking any empathy for my sons. While these thoughts have crossed my mind, they are not the reasons I haven’t openly spoke about it.

The truth is. I don’t know how to describe it. How do you explain to people who are not witnessing first hand, the devastating transformation that overwhelms ‘the hive’ each week and the damage it is causing to our relationships and sanity?

At the moment it is all Bumble and I can do just to keep pushing through, support each other as well as the boys and pray that “next weekend will be calmer” – rarely are our prayers answered.

Beeswax is struggling at school at the moment but I don’t mean he is struggling academically, although he is finding the beginning of his GCSE’s more taxing than he had anticipated. He is struggling with the absolute chaos of the ongoing disruption and unsettling environment that has been created by a serious of catastrophic mistakes and decisions by senior members of school staff, and it is Waxy and his peers who are paying the price. while measures are put in place to rebalance the school environment. Sadly Waxy being Waxy, he has held on and pushed all his stress and anxiety deep down inside during his school week, only to then walk in the front door on a Friday afternoon and within minutes begin “dumping” all his baggage on the members of the household or to be more accurate, he takes all his anger and frustration out on Buzzbee, verbally and physically.   And, heaven forbid if I dare to parent him before he is ready.

If we are lucky, Waxy will unload his stress and then, other than being a testosterone fuelled, foulmouthed 14-year-old, he will settle down for a while, but by this time often the damage has already been done and the stress and angst has simply been transferred to Buzzbee, who in his current vulnerable emotional state, makes the ideal vessel to ensure the trauma hamster wheel continues turning for as long as is needed.

Buzzbee himself is as I have already said extremely vulnerable at the moment. He is vulnerable to the slightest disruption in his routine. He is vulnerable to the most insignificant whiff of unexpected sensory input, and more importantly, he is vulnerable to Waxy’s emotional dysregulation and the traumatic effects it is having on them both.

But Buzz’s vulnerability is certainly not Waxy’s fault, neither is it Buzzbee’s or even Bumble or mine. In the past year we have become increasingly worried about the lack of Buzzbee’s emotional regulation skills and the increasing developmental gap that has been growing between Buzz and his peers both academically and socially.

After a long road of trying to persuade professionals that there was a genuine cause for concern and not just two, tired and stressed out parents searching for answers and labels, and reading far too much into ‘naughty behaviour’, in the last 2 weeks we have received the confirmation that we had hoped to not hear, but completely expected to hear.   Buzzbee has been struggling for a reason (more than one to be exact) and while therapeutic parenting all this time has helped keep him afloat within the family to an extent, there are gaps that even I hadn’t noticed and these gaps are at the root of many of the reasons he is finding it so difficult to cope at the moment throughout the day and into the night.

I am not going to even start on the pantomime that is bedtimes in our home at the moment.

At the moment I don’t really see a way out of this mess other than going down a path Bumble and I don’t want to take.

In May we requested an assessment of our adoption support needs and indicated that we wanted to put separate ASF applications in for each of the boys to receive support from a DDP therapist. Early into term 1 of the new school year, Bumble and I filled in the forms to the best of our ability for our PASW.

Guess what?   We are STILL waiting to put in the applications despite the fact we have made it very clear that we are completely on our knees and desperately need support NOW!

 

Best laid plans……….!

This weekend I had began to write a #WASO post about the plans I had made for this weekend, for the boys and myself to have some quality time together while Bumble is away for the weekend.

However the past 48 hours has been probably one of the most stressful weekends we have had for some time, and while there are some parts that I could still write about. At this moment in time I don’t feel it would be right for me to post this post.

That does not mean of course that I am choosing to ignore the theme this week. I spend most of my waking day ‘Making Plans’ and trying to avoid micromanaging every moment of our days to help the boys remain regulated, and more often than not, the plans do not turn out as hoped (take his weekend as an example). On the flip side, on the rare occasions I have tried spontaneity, it has the majority of the time rapidly gone south and Bumble and I find ourselves in a situation where we need to tap into our damage limitation skills to salvage something of the day/weekend.

planningadate2

Last weekend was one of these times.   Last weekend marked the 2nd anniversary of the boys’ adoption being finalised and this year it happens to also mark the end of Halloween the half-term school holidays. We have just about managed to cling onto a molecule of sanity during the week but we desperately needed to get away for a couple of days so that Waxy could return to school on a high rather than in a state of shame because it had gone all wrong at the last minute.

As a last minute decision Bumble, the boys and I threw some bits and bobs into the car (okay let us be realistically I did all the packing) and we headed down to my parent’s caravan for the weekend and made arrangements to meet up with my parents and their gorgeous puppies as an adoption day anniversary surprise for the boys.

The boys love going down to the caravan and were excited to throw themselves into all the Halloween fun, as well as letting loose at the beach. Usually the boys love Halloween (it has taken some adjusting me for me as I have never been a fan) and are generally calmer than usual, so maybe Bumble and I allowed ourselves to fall into a false sense of security and took our eyes off the ball, but our weekend did not go to plan.

Don’t get me wrong we still had a good time but the boys, especially Buzzbee needed far more management than we had expected – picture a 130cm raging, tearful T-Rex with a toothache and you will be getting close.t-rex with toothache

Every attempt Bumble and I could think of to support and help him settle, was failing miserably and Waxy was certainly not helping matters. The more Buzz fell apart. The more Waxy openly showed his irritation and frustration for the ‘dramas’ his brother was making in public. Cue Buzzbee falling apart further because “my brother hates me”.

Bumble and I started to feel we were in a unwinnable situation, and toyed with returning home early (I knew my parents would have understood if we felt we had to do this). As a last ditched attempt to recover the day, we took the boys to the evening show (not something we would usually do on a theme night because they do not respond well to the fancy dress contests when they do not win) but to the absolute relief of Bumble and I, a trip to the evening show was just the distraction we needed for the boys.

While Waxy’s distraction did not surprise us, once we knew what the show was – He is after all a 14 year old boy and no matter how much I hate it. Young female dancers in skimpy costumes are going to get his attention very quickly (the penny only dropped when he volunteered to sit with Buzzbee near the front of the stage – he will never usually do this).

As for Buzzbee’s saviour. An innocent helium balloon.  Boo

I wish they had been around earlier in the day, because the almost immediate change in Buzzbee was incredible. The moment I tied the ribbon from the balloon to his wrist, he body language completely change and the stress almost fell from his shoulders. On the walk back after the show he was able to tell me that he just needed one thing that he could focus on – sensory overload. Bumble and I had suspected this was the problem but nothing at the time was helping him.

While it took us more time than usually to help the boys regulate themselves, our plans for the weekend weren’t a complete washout. Nanny and grandad’s visit with their puppies on ‘Adoption day’ was a complete success (I think they could probably all have been heard laughing and barking as far up as mars), and while I am sure we were mad, having 3 completely crazy dogs and 2 even nutter boys all in one caravan at the same time, not to mention my dad and Bumble up to their usual mischief (I swear when they get together they are bigger kids than the boys). It was lovely to spend the day enjoying watching the boys have fun and forgetting their troubles for a few hours – even when Buzzbee’s literal understanding made for a very cold and wet (but hysterical) situation, but I will save that for a post later in the week.

day at the sea

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out
This entry was posted on November 8, 2015. 2 Comments